Hoops Hello: Brandon Johns Comment Count

Ace June 29th, 2017 at 12:30 PM

The pride of East Lansing High, four-star power forward Brandon Johns, will be a Michigan Wolverine. The top-ranked 2018 prospect in the state made the announcement on Twitter this afternoon:

Johns chose Michigan over the likes of Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue. Both in-state schools have been pursuing him since he was in middle school, making this a significant head-to-head win for John Beilein over Tom Izzo. He's the second commit in the class, joining three-star East English Village point guard David DeJulius.


Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
4*, #21 PF,
#100 Ovr
4* PF,
#43 Ovr
4*, 88, #6 SF,
#40 Ovr
4*, 96, #15 PF,
#50 Ovr
4*, #18 PF,
#54 Ovr

Johns's rankings are in a very tight 40-50 range with the exception of Scout, which is more skeptical but still considers him a four-star prospect. Scout, ESPN, and 247 list him at 6'8" and in the 205-215 pound range; Rivals appears to have an outdated listing of 6'7", 180.

[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]


Johns has been on the radar for a long time. He jumped out to Sam Webb at Michigan's Elite Camp as a rising freshman in 2014:

This high school freshman-to-be was the best prospect in attendance during the morning session.  The future is amazingly bright for this talented youngster.  He is 6-6, but handles it like he is 6-2.  ... In a match-up with Xavier Tillman, Johns really impressed.  One time down the floor he caught it in the post and went over Tillman for two.  Another time he hit Tillman with a crossover on the wing before hitting a floater from the elbow.  He also drained a number of threes on the day.  All that said, there were some hiccups on the day.  The stronger Tillman was able to push Johns around at times.  Johns also was sometimes too deferential.  Both of those shortcomings can be coached out of him.  This kid is a skilled point forward at this early stage of development.  If he gets to 6-9-plus like his dad he could develop into an unbelievable stretch-four.  Also worth of note is this was Johns’ first ever camp experience… a very nice distinction for the Maize & Blue to have.

He landed on a lot of early watch lists as a top 2018 recruit, and for the most part his development has stayed on track. He's put together an excellent spring that should solidify his lofty rankings. Endless Motor on his performance at May's Spiece Run-N-Slam:

Really liked what I saw over the weekend from Brandon. He has an improved motor that is noticeable on the boards and he displayed much more aggression on the offensive end of the court. He had a few highlight reel dunks in transition, including a windmill that was dunk contest worthy. In the halfcourt Johns buried catch and shoot threes, and showed some really nice vision finding teammates for dunks after breaking defenders down off the dribble. Talent has never been in question for the talented junior, but it appears his motor has caught up to his skill level if this weekend was any indication, and that is a scary thought. At a legit 6’8 and 220 pounds, with very good ball skills and good athleticism, Brandon has all the tools to be an elite level player.

Rivals's Eric Bossi noted a similar uptick in Johns's desire to hit the boards at the EYBL Indianapolis session:

Johns was active on both ends of the floor and did a nice job of cleaning the glass. When he rebounds and plays with some physicality, his entire game opens up. He hit a couple of three pointers and was good for 16 points and nine rebounds.

ESPN updated their evaluation on Johns just a couple weeks ago:

Brandon is a skilled combo forward. He could be a 4 at the collegiate level and then possibly a 3 man at the highest level. He reminds you some of Ex-Dukie Shane Battier. Johns is versatile offensively as he can play inside and out. He is an effective post up player that can also shoot to 20 feet. Johns is a good passer and has a very good basketball IQ. He is a smooth operator that can also be a glue guy because he can do so many things offensively. He is also a solid defender that can guard on the perimeter and in the paint.

Brandon, of course, needs to get stronger like most high school players. He is a solid shooter but could be a little more consistent from deep. Defensively he is good versus post players either inside or on the perimeter, he will need to improve guard smaller and quicker players outside on the perimeter.

Bottom Line:
Johns is a great prospect that will be an asset and key piece for what college he chooses. A nice talent and very good player.

UMHoops, like everyone else this spring, saw a talented player putting it all together at Michigan's Team and Elite Camps last weekend:

Brandon Johns has been almost scouted to death at this point after playing two years of Nike EYBL 17U and being highly touted at a young age. The knocks on Johns were always about his motor and production, but suddenly he’s turning a lot of that early potential into consistent productivity. At 6-foot-8 with long arms, Johns has improved as a rebounder and is more aggressive looking for his offense. He’s capable of stretching the floor and driving to the rim and looks like the total package as a stretch four.

As you've probably gathered, Johns looks like a great fit as a versatile four in Beilein's system.


Johns held offers from Alabama, Cal, Creighton, Indiana, Iowa, Memphis, Michigan State, Mizzou, Pitt, Purdue, and Xavier.


In 13 games for his Indy Heat squad on this spring's EYBL circuit, Johns is averaging 12.6 points, going 61/111 on twos (55%), 17/39 on threes (44%), and 27/40 on free throws (68%) while adding 6.6 rebounds per game with 13 assists, 18 steals, and 19 blocks.


2017 Nike EYBL LA:

2017 Run-N-Slam highlights:

2016 Nike EYBL:

Johns and Tyger Campbell single-game highlights:

Quick 2017 EYBL reel. Is no stranger to dunking.


Johns looks like an immediate contributor at the four, where he'll share minutes with 2017 incoming freshman Isaiah Livers. Both are skilled for their size, so who gets the larger share of playing time may come down to rebounding and defense—and, of course, familiarity with Beilein's system, which will at least give Livers an initial edge. Johns is the higher-touted prospect, however, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him earn a big role at an early stage.


Michigan now has two commits, a point guard and a big wing, for the 2018 class. There are two open scholarships left at the moment, though it wouldn't be surprising for Beilein to take three more players—he learned from past classes to recruit with attrition in mind.

Another big wing, four-star SF Pete Nance, is expected to be the next to commit; he'd down to Michigan and Northwestern and reportedly plans to announce soon after this weekend's official visit to Ann Arbor. If Nance commits, Michigan would have room for maybe one more combo forward—top targets include Jerome Hunter, Ignas Brazdeikis, Race Thompson, and Hunter Tyson—and someone who can slot in at shooting guard like Noah Locke.



June 29th, 2017 at 12:38 PM ^

I will cherish Brandon Johns as a mid level usage freshman, and cherish him more as a 2nd team all big 10 player as a sophomore, before he declares early to be the 21st to 27th player drafted into the NBA. I've learned my lesson!


June 29th, 2017 at 1:56 PM ^

He'll be inconsistent sometimes and just a rumor at other times, but he'll have that one-shining-moment deep NCAA tournament run in March of his sophomore year, and then he'll be gone.

Unfortunately we'll only be a 10 seed when that happens, so we'll watch the team we almost beat play in the Final Four when we know it could have been us if we were the 2 seed we were actually playing like at the end of the season.




June 29th, 2017 at 1:34 PM ^

That's my favorite part about this. Just as MSU is coming to terms with the tire fire that is their football program & start to fall back by taking solace in their basketball prospects, we give them a dong punch by grabbing the state's top basketball recruit.


June 29th, 2017 at 1:00 PM ^

I work with someone who knows Brandon and his family well, and he's apparently a fantastic kid - humble, polite, extremely smart. We obviously want guys who can ball most of all, but it's great knowing he's a solid citizen, too.

El Jeffe

June 29th, 2017 at 2:05 PM ^

I agree, but that seems like a weird comp. I don't remember much about Battier from high school (or even Duke for that matter), but Johns seems way leapier and with much better handles than Battier, who I always thought of as more of a skilled lunch pail banger.

Seems more like a middle class man's Brandon Ingram to me.


June 29th, 2017 at 3:13 PM ^

...but Battier was much more than a lunch pail banger in college; you might be thinking of him in last five or so year (e.g., with the Heat) when he was older.

In college, he was ahead of his time, as he put up tons of 3s (over seven attempts a game) and made over 40% of them; he also played great defense and was a good rebounder. He could easily dunk, but that wasn't his game, so it is very likely he is/was not as "leapy" as Johns. I don't remember Battier having a very good handle, but I just don't remember that.

Battier would have been a perfect Beilein recruit -- tall, defend multiple positions, shoot the 3 at a high percentage with volume, smart as can be. Plus, he could rebound (which Beilein's teams tend to struggle with) but again, Battier had four years in college and was POY, so I don't want to put that expectation level on Johns; it just would be a great thing to shoot for.


June 29th, 2017 at 4:29 PM ^

including the state title game for Country Day.  Like most 6'8 HS players in the 90s, he played almost exclusively inside.  He was too dominant in the post for him to be spending time on the perimeter, iirc.  You're right that he was ahead of his time as a big that shot threes in college.

This is a very unusual comarison for a lot of reasons.  Battier was never much of a true wing player on offense, at any level, and became the quintessenial 3 and D NBA player.  Sounds like Johns has a lot more offensive versatility, and is almost certainly not the elite defender Battier always was, but if he even approached that level, it would be awesome.


June 29th, 2017 at 1:13 PM ^

I ask because we seem to be short on assistant coaches at the moment, and some folks mentioned that losing coaches (like Meyer) *might* make an impact in recruiting. Granted, the head coach is by far the most important factor, but I still find it interesting we pull in a top recruit while we are presently very short-staffed.

Shows the strength of the program as a whole, IMHO.


June 29th, 2017 at 1:46 PM ^

So we just got a highly rated version of the ideal JB 4.

I know he's going to do a ton more, but I'm most excited for the murder dunks off of baseline cuts after watching some highlights.


June 29th, 2017 at 1:55 PM ^

Appears to an outsider to be another high character kid who will fit well at Michigan. Great to get a highly ranked kid. I am old enough to remember how the dominoes fell with the Fab 5 committing to Michigan. Of course, several of those guys were extremely highly ranked. Still, it would be awesome to see something somewhat similar happen again. I'd love to add Jerome Hunter, maybe Nance, and a 5th guy also in the top 50.

Only tangentially related, but DJ Wilson was another high character kid. Beilein definitely does a good job of bringing in guys who are a good fit for what he is doing, and how the program is run at Michigan. I have read criticisms of Beilein that he needs to change the kind of player he recruits. I'd have to say I disagree. We can't complain about how sleazy things are in East Lansing at MSU, or at Louisville, or Kentucky, or Duke, and at the same time say, why can't we loosen things up and bring questionable character kids to Michigan? I want to be careful here . . . my goal isn't to throw anyone under the bus. All of us make questionable decisions, and need the opportunity to grow from them. However, I don't want to see players running the team and deciding what goes and what doesn't.


June 29th, 2017 at 2:40 PM ^

based on a few things i've heard from scout.com, i would expect johns to rize in the next re-rank.  scout may still be the outlier, but not as much of one.

also, johns has more pure talent than livers.  i don't expect livers to be able to keep johns off the court.  they also could play together if you aren't playing an isaac haas type.


June 29th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

He seems like an excellent fit for the program. The 2018 class looks really good so far.

I wonder how much the NBA's embracing of the stretch four is making Coach Beilein's offense look good to recruits such as Johns. It can't hurt that DJ just went at 17 in the draft either.